The Role of Ordinary People in Democratization

Issue Date January 2008
Volume 19
Issue 1
Page Numbers 126-140
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Students of democracy increasingly emphasize the fact that democracy implies government by the people, not mere “electoral democracy” in which elites hold elections but the citizens have little real influence on their actions. Genuinely “effective democracy” does not simply result from elite cost-benefit calculations. It emerges when ordinary people acquire resources and values that enable them to put effective pressures on elites– a process that we term “human empowerment.” “Self-expression values” reflect a syndrome of interpersonal trust, tolerance and political activism that plays a crucial role in the emergence and survival of democracy. When people have relatively ample economic and cognitive resources, and move from emphasizing survival values toward emphasizing self-expression values, they become most effective in the struggle to obtain democratic institutions.

About the Authors

Christian Welzel

Christian Welzel is political culture research professor at Leuphana University in Lüneberg, Germany, and the former president of the World Values Survey Association. His books include Freedom Rising: Human Empowerment and the Quest for Emancipation (2013).

View all work by Christian Welzel

Ronald Inglehart

Ronald F. Inglehart, Amy and Alan Lowenstein Professor of Democracy, Democratization, and Human Rights at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan and codirector of the Laboratory for Comparative Social Research at the Higher School of Economics in St. Petersburg, Russia, directs the World Values Survey, which has surveyed representative national samples of the publics of 97 countries.

View all work by Ronald Inglehart